I'm wrapping up the icons stuff for ships and design screen. When I fix the production screen so that it works with the new data system and add ship design validation, I will release 0.5.4, so expect it within a few days! 0.5.4 is mostly just reworking of ship design screen and equipment selection, so nothing too exciting, but it fixes the screens that was broken with 0.5.3 ship overhaul.
Now for the new exciting stuff! Since I've decided on the star-to-star movement, I've been thinking about finding points of conflict between turns, as well as UI for handling the attacks/defenses, and ship placement in space combat. There's also the issue with end-game having massive number of ships in space combat, and it taking forever to resolve in MoO 2 that I'd like to avoid.
I then thought, why not have the player pre-arrange their fleet in a formation, so when he attacks with that fleet, he don't have to set it all up every time with that fleet? Then I thought, what if he wants to attack a planet with a part of his fleet, and another planet with another part? So I came up with the idea of squadrons, and I realized that it solves a lot of potential design problems that I've been facing, so I'm going to implement them!
Here's how squadrons will work. Each system that you owns, when it builds a ship, it is put into that system's reserves (with reduced maintenance cost). To actually use that ship, you will hover over the fleet icon next to the system, and it will give you a list of squadrons as well as an option to create a new squadron. You click on the new squadron, and it will show an limited area (say, 20x20 tiles). You can then drag ships from reserves into positions within the area. Ships won't overlap, so if you have a huge ship, then you can only add small ships in the remaining free space. You then click "Confirm" and a new squadron is now active. You can then send it out as a part of group of squadrons, or by itself, to wherever you want.
When you attack an system, you can pick which squadrons to attack which planet. So it's possible to attack more than one planet in the same turn if you have two or more squadrons. Defenders will have the ability to pick which squadrons to defend a planet with, or even intercept the enemy ships if they're just visiting the system. However, there will be a limit to how many squadrons you can bring into a combat, so if you have 10 squadrons, and it's limited to 5 squadron per empire, you can bring only 5 into combat. This will help avoid the huge number of ships issue in MoO 2's endgame.
You can still control each ship individually in combat, but the starting ship placement will be already taken care of, using the ships' position within a squadron.
To scrap or disband a squadron, it must be next to a friendly system, which will avoid the issue with MoO 3's task force disbanding in one end of galaxy, then being available for service 5 turns later in another end of galaxy. Disbanding a squadron merely puts those ships into the adjacent system's reserves. When you retreat a ship in space combat, you're actually issuing retreat for the squadron in which the ship is a part of. When transferring population, it will bring up the squadron screen as well as the system screen, and you will need to specify which ship to carry which people. The reason for this is that during space combat, the game needs to know which ship has the people, so if that ship dies, the people dies with it.
And yes, you will be able to name your squadrons, for easy reference. You also will be able to specify how big a squadron area can be, and how many squadrons per empire can be involved in combat in the game config file.
All in all, I think this is a very good compromise for many issues that's plagued the old MoO games. It helps reduce micromanagement because you're now dealing with squadrons in galaxy screen, instead of individual ships. I will start implementing this after 0.5.4 is done, which means that 0.5.5 will finally include space combat!